Friday, November 25, 2016

Dan Damon's Blogs Temporarily Off Line

Dan Damon, author of Plainfield Today and aggregators of news on CLIPS, will be having surgery soon and so will not be blogging for a while. He called to ask me to let readers know.

Let us wish him the best and a speedy return to blogging.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing all a happy holiday!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Walking Around on My Break

Click any image to enlarge
What a surprise to see this paisley-painted signal box on Park Avenue as I walked downtown!

I had written about Union County's "Art Outside the Box" initiative and other public art in 2015 and thought this was  a continuation, but an online search turned up nothing new, Finally, I contacted a county spokesman who said there was no new art this year. The artwork is signed, so maybe the artist will come forward to collect compliments. I saw another signal box design by the same artist while I was taking a taxi home from the Stop & Shop, but I can't recall the exact location.

It was a bit of cheer in an otherwise gloomy week for me, so thanks, Pedro Baez!

After doing my errand downtown without any mishaps, I decided to walk further. A vacant lot on West Front Street reminded me of its unfinished story. First cleared for construction of 12 condos, it became a "pocket park" in 2008, cleaned up and beautified by Lucent volunteers (top photo). Later, it was supposed to become part of another project with office space and an adult day care center, but it's still a bit of green space sans benches (bottom photo).

October 2008

November 2016

The much-painted-over west wall featured a scary monster and a flamboyant tag. I recently bought a fountain pen and was trying not very enthusiastically to brush up on my cursive writing skills, but the tag made me realize that creative is better than cursive.

On West Second Street, I thought about the 148-unit development project proposed for the PNC parking lot area. It was approved in 2010, with preservation of the Titsworth-Sutphen building discussed as a goal. The building is (correction: one of very few) the only pre-Civil War structure in Plainfield.

The sign on the building was hanging down and rear windows were boarded up. I had heard about vagrants getting in recently. One hopes action on the building's relocation will happen sooner rather than later.
December 2013
November 2016

On East Second Street, I saw new black fencing installed at Municipal Parking Lot 6, with complementary fencing at the  corner of East Second and Gavett Place, where an entertainment center is planned.

Municipal Parking Lot 6

New venue on Gavett Place

Glancing up at a window, I recalled some of the many improvised window treatments I have seen around the city. This one looked like a sheet. I have also seen black contractors' bags, cardboard, contour sheets, newspapers, blankets and towels (scroll down here to see an example).

Across Gavett Place, the other part of the envisioned entertainment center is getting the final details. It has 20 apartments and commercial space along with grounds for gatherings across from the main train station.
Art Lofts I

I ran into two very interesting people on North Avenue, both with vital interest in Plainfield, and we dished for a while on city topics. It reminded me of what I used to call "journalism by walking around," because the conversations were revelatory and only needed a little more work to produce stories.

The colors on this building were brighter than I remembered. Turns out it was just re-painted. The aqua details really stood out. I was telling one person about a theater that had been on the block, in the spot that is now just a vacant lot. If you weren't here in 2010, check out these demolition images.

Back home to the six-family building that was once the home of Joseph Yates, a member of Plainfield's first council. The Oak tree out front might even date back to those days.
The current City Council will not meet again until Dec. 5, when an agenda-fixing session is scheduled. The regular meeting is Dec. 12 and on Dec. 19 there will be an agenda-fixing session for the council reorganization in January. By the way, official results of the Nov. 8 election show 11,224 votes for Rebecca Williams, currently representing Wards 2&3 at-large but starting a four-year term as the Citywide at-large representative in January. Charles McRae won the Third Ward seat with 2,544 votes to 995 for former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. The council will choose an appointee to serve in Wards 2&3 at-large until the next general election.

Hope you enjoyed coming along on my walk!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Taking A Break

Some of you may know I was a reporter for 16 years before retiring in 2003. Recently I was taking a look at my old assignment books and couldn't help noticing all the vacation and personal days I had to use or lose every year. By contrast, as a blogger since June 2005 I have posted daily for more than 11 years with hardly a break. Early on, Barbara Todd Kerr also posted, but most of the 2,343 Plainfield Plaintalker posts were mine, as were all of the 3,550 Plaintalker II posts.

Seeing all those vacation days made me think I should assign myself a few, so here goes! The blog will be on hiatus for a while. Feel free to browse the archives at or if you wish. Here's an example from 2008: Plainfield and How It Got That Way. 


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tuesday Wins Give Mapp A Council Majority

Councilman-elect Charles McRae, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp

City Council victories Tuesday mean Mayor Adrian O. Mapp will finally have a supportive majority on the governing body.

With the election of Charles McRae to the Third Ward seat and Rebecca Williams to the Citywide at-large seat, plus an appointee to fill Williams' unexpired Second & Third Ward term, Mapp will be able to count to a friendly five on the seven-member council in January.

Williams was unopposed Tuesday for the Citywide at-large seat and received 10,494 votes, according to unofficial results posted by Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi. In the Third Ward, McRae won with 2,364 votes, overcoming a challenge from former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who ran as an Independent and got 952 votes. Official results are expected Monday.
Supporters applaud Mapp's remarks

"I'm very pleased that after having to struggle over the last three years with a majority of City Council members that was not supporting my vision, it's very heartening to have a total of five council members that will be supportive of my vision," Mapp said as his team celebrated Tuesday night.
Councilman Barry Goode, Citywide at-large Councilwoman-elect Rebecca Williams.

Williams called McRae's  win "clearly a mandate for fresh, responsive leadership in the Third Ward" and said, "I'm gratified that the voters had enough confidence in me to vote for me as their citywide representative."

She said a lot of voters know her from her 15 years of walking across the city for various campaigns. She helped several people run and win off the line and finally did so herself twice before getting the line this year from the Democratic City Committee chaired by Mapp.

Mapp displaced Assemblyman Jerry Green as city committee chairman in June 2015, though Green retained the Union County Democratic Committee chairmanship. All the elected officials are Democrats, but they are split between Green and Mapp. Green opened campaign headquarters on Park Avenue, even though Mapp had Democratic headquarters on Watchung Avenue. Both urged support of Column A, but Green omitted the council candidates from signage and from a handout to voters at the polls. The handout had Green's photo and an image of the ballot that left off the council line.

Mapp recalled Tuesday that when he took office, he had only two supporters on the council.

"Just imagine what I am able to do with five," Mapp said, but quickly named the challenges ahead.

"I am in the third year of a four-year term," he said. "I have to run for re-election in seven months."

Mapp said his name will be on the June primary ballot, along with candidates for the Fourth Ward and Second & Third Ward at-large seat.

"I want to ask each and every one to be supportive of my re-election, to make sure we get the right results," he said, announcing a "birthday bash" event on Dec. 2 to launch the re-election campaign.
Not only will Mapp have to run for re-election in 2017, the 68 City Committee seats will be up in June and winners will choose the chair for the following two years. The appointee replacing Williams in the Second & Third Ward at-large seat will have to run in the June primary, as will Fourth Ward candidates. If unsuccessful, the appointee would have to yield in November to the winner of the general election.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Vote Today

By this time tomorrow, we will know who won the election. The pundits will give way to the analysts and between now and January the election chatter will just take another form.

Make sure you take part in this historic election. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. This year, there are unprecedented tools to find your polling place and help you vote. Facebook has one  and news outlets are aiding turnout as well.

In Plainfield, 2017 is already looming large. There will be a mayoral race and one for the Fourth Ward. It will be the Democratic City Committee's turn to fill 68 seats and choose a chairman to serve for two years. Statewide, voters will choose a governor (though the Democratic candidacy seems to be already resolved). By the time of the primary we shall also have an indication of how the new president is doing on the world stage.

But one thing at a time - just get to the polls and vote today. It's crucial!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Be Part Of The Outcome

W-w-w-waiting for Outcomes

Facebook wanted me to recall a 2012 blog post titled, "Antsy Tuesday, Waiting for Outcomes" but I did something wrong and didn't put up the memory.

However, the title struck me as very relevant right now, not because of a weather disaster, but for the jitters many feel about what will happen on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 and in the four years after the presidential inauguration in January 2017. Commentators today projected two possible scenarios, a loose-cannon Republican winner or Democrat who will be stymied through 2020 by Republican naysayers.

The candidates have engendered much dark humor, but it really isn't funny when they are deemed the worst ones in history, the most disliked, most despised. There are seven other presidential choices on the ballot, but some voters say they will just skip the polls this year.

As hard as the decision-making process may be on Tuesday, don't sit it out. Think, pray, read, listen and then go do it! Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Check your ballot to confirm your polling place and to review candidates and public questions - and VOTE!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

What's Being Heard on Third Ward Grapevine?

Wild Grapevine

I don't live in the Third Ward, so I don't get campaign literature for the City Council race in that ward. I'm curious to know what kind of messages the candidates are giving voters this time around. The candidates did take part in a forum, but in the last days of a campaign the strongest pitches tend to emerge. So what are you hearing from Democrat Charles McRae and Independent Sharon Robinson-Briggs? 

Nasturtiums Still Blooming

November is here and still no frost!

I planted a lot of Nasturtiums this year and this group is still going strong on November 5. There are more with green and white variegated leaves that may yet bloom if the weather stays moderate.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Shared Parking And Other Planning Board Topics

Sharing is something children are taught to do with toys and candy, but land use planners want urban dwellers to think about sharing another coveted item - parking.

In a redevelopment plan presentation Thursday for a 25-acre swath of North Avenue, planner Veena Sawant of the Nishuane Group said parking requirements can be reduced when they are shared. The concept relies on agreements between property owners and is based on the notion that specific parking spaces are not full all the time. Traditionally, each building's parking need is assessed separately, but by sharing, Jersey City reduced requirements by 60 percent.

"We propose 20 percent reduction," Sawant said.

To learn more, scroll down in this New Jersey state transportation article to a section entitled "Efficiency: Encourage shared parking ...

Sawant was describing "new design standards and guidelines" for the tract bordered by North Avenue, Berckman Street, Leland Avenue and the Raritan Valley Line tracks. Currently it contains vacant, abandoned and under-utilized structures not conducive to transit-oriented development, she said. The goal is to create a "24/7 living district" with new mixed-use buildings, commercial at the ground floor and residential above. Thirteen-foot sidewalks would have three zones, one for fire hydrants and bus stops, one for walking and five feet in front of storefronts for outdoor dining and the like.

Sawant suggested a maximum of 90 units per acre and one car per 1- or 2-bedroom unit and no street parking, though a board member said street parking is necessary for a football field in the tract.

One tricky issue is that the entire area is in a Flood Hazard Zone, although developers could seek an NJDEP hardship exemption from having to build four feet above ground  level.

As for the old buildings in the tract, someone mentioned they could be recycled and used for fill. The rationale is explained in a Rutgers manual on Green Building.

The Planning Board approved the North Avenue redevelopment plan and it will go next to the City Council for adoption.

The board also held a public hearing on an "In Need of Redevelopment" study of 28 properties on Block 645, and had a lengthy discussion on satellite dishes. Issues included who owns abandoned dishes and who can be held responsible for their removal. Board attorney Janine Bauer guided the discussion with reminders of federal regulations on the devices and intricacies of landlord/tenant law. The board's work on the issue will continue next month.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Toliver: Address Public Nuisance on Park Avenue

People creating a public nuisance at Park & Seventh have now spread to Park & Front, officials said at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Councilwoman Diane Toliver had requested a council discussion of conditions at Park & Seventh after seeing them first-hand while volunteering at a Democratic campaign office there. Toliver said she walked along Park Avenue to Front Street and found people fighting, selling drugs and urinating in public.

Financial Plaza at Park & Front, newly renovated in 2008
Police Director Carl Riley said Tuesday he had benches removed from the Front Street corner, saying "resources were being wasted there." in dealing with the loiterers.

Chess table saved in 2005 renovations

"The crew that plays chess is no concern," Riley said.

In 2012, former Police Director Martin Hellwig had a bench removed from Park & Seventh because people were sleeping on it, drinking and having loud, profanity-laced arguments that were frightening away shoppers.

 Riley said police were trying to use "positive engagement" with the individuals causing nuisances.

Toliver also cited the Park Hotel, a state-licensed home for adults, as a source of problems and said officials might "perhaps enlighten the owners."

Riley said he and Deputy City Administrator Carlos Sanchez met with operators of the Park Hotel and things improved at Park  & Seventh, but now, Riley said, they will have a meeting regarding the situation at Park & Front.

Both locations are shopping destinations and merchants have also asked for help in deterring loitering and panhandling.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Taxi Towing Penalty Approved On First Reading

Supporters of a North Plainfield taxi company and even one competitor came to Tuesday's City Council meeting to challenge new legislation that would allow police to have their taxis towed for picking up passengers in Plainfield.

The city has already levied heavy fines for the infraction as a result of complaints from Plainfield taxi companies that must pay for licenses and meet requirements of the city taxi ordinance. But representatives of the North Plainfield companies said they are Plainfield residents who are just trying to earn a living..

The ordinance to allow towing of a non-city taxi at a police officer's request passed on first reading Tuesday and will be up for second reading and final passage on Dec. 12.

In public comment, the dispatcher for a new North Plainfield company, Gray Taxi, told the council he had been taught that America is the greatest country for its freedom, adding, "We just want to work honestly."

He said because of fines by the city he could not afford costumes for his daughters.

"We're not stealing nobody's business," he said.

Plainfield has four licensed taxi companies and because the number of taxis goes by population, no new city licenses can be issued. Soria Taxi owner Fabian Soria pleaded two years ago with the governing body to relent on the fines and said due to the cap on licenses he can't get one, even though he started out in Plainfield. His daughter said Tuesday she was born and raised in Plainfield and called it "unfair the way Plainfield treats my parents."

Another woman who drives for Soria said she was recently pulled over in Plainfield "for no reason," scaring her passengers. She said she had collected numerous signatures from Plainfield residents saying they liked Soria Taxi and a speaker alleged a city police officer called Soria on his personal cell phone to pick up bar patrons at closing  time.

Others in favor of Soria claimed that Plainfield taxis may take half an hour to show up, but the Gray Taxi dispatcher put in a couple of similar digs at Soria.

All arguments aside, Corporation Counsel David Minchello said there is "no reciprocity" just because a person has a taxi license in North Plainfield.

Here is the amendment to the taxi ordinance that will be up for final passage on Dec. 12:

Any vehicle operating in violation of this chapter shall be deemed a nuisance and a menace to the safe and proper regulation of traffic, and any Police Officer upon his or her discretion, may provide for the removal of that vehicle. The owner shall bear the costs of removal and storage which may result from such removal before regaining possession of the vehicle.